Food for Thought – Looking for Maladaptive Thoughts

Looking for Maladaptive Thoughts
One of the things that has really hit home with me recently is the perspective that thoughts are just thoughts, they are neither right or wrong, good or bad, but they can be harmful or helpful.
Because our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are all linked together we can challenge harmful or maladaptive thoughts to effect and change our feelings and behaviors.
Maladative thoughts are often linked to dysfunctional habits of mind, or biases. These broadly fall into five categories.

1. Catastrophic Thinking

These are the times we become overly pessimistic and spiral into the belief that only negative outcomes are possible/plausible.

2. Maximizing

This is simply over valuing the impact of the the thing we are thinking about or assuming the outcome will be extreme.

3. Minimizing

The opposite of maximizing, minimizing thoughts are when we under value the potential outcomes or think they will have a minimal impact on us.

4. All-or-Non Thinking

Over simplifying the outcome or thought by saying it can only be this way or that way. Black or white, right or wrong, my way or no way.

5. Emotional Reasoning

This is a trap that bypasses critical thinking and tells us that because I feel good (or Bad) then my thoughts must be right (or wrong).
Like any other tool, our skills with spotting and challenging maladaptive thoughts increases with use. The first step is to to spot when you are acting out in a way that is harmful to you, then you need to stop and think about the emotions and the thoughts your are having… ods are they are also harmful… once you identify the harmful thought call it what it is and challenge it.
for example:
I am doing X and this is harmful, I am doing it because I fell sad and think things will never get better.
The thought that “I feel sad, and things will never get better” is harmful and maladaptive and should be challenged. It has elements of all-or-non thinking and Emotional Reasoning.
You can challenge the thoughts by reminding yourself that you don’t always feel sad and there are often times when you feel happy.


If you want to discuss things a little further, check out our closed facebook discussion group to share your thoughts and join in the discussion. Or you can email me directly at  If you are interested in further reading check out other Food for Thought articles and learn all about the Archetypes of Skill.  You can also sign up to receive The Friday Huddle, a short weekly email from me that gives you the tips, insights, and musings that have gotten me through the week.

Live Skillfully!


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